Two Poems

Poetry / Alyse Bensel


:: Genetic ::


Trac­ing mito­chon­dr­i­al lin­eage we ask
who fathered this child, the moth­er silent
as an exhib­it behind glass. Sea­horse fins
undu­late like the cil­ia of cells that per­form
rou­tine func­tions, that mutate. The rote
gath­er­ing of drones is dri­ven by their need
for hon­ey. The male sea­horse har­bors
his chil­dren inside his tor­so until he rears
like a stal­lion, emp­ty­ing them into the sea.
Every atom roams with­in its own sup­posed
atmos­phere, so we can only guess
where an elec­tron exists. The gene char­ters
an imper­fect code left to chance.
But we nev­er wor­ry about flesh sud­den­ly
pulling from our bones. Our rein­car­na­tion
is a slick Mobius strip, a seashell’s whorl
lead­ing us toward our false eternity.


:: Love in the Anthropocene ::

Gas bub­bles from the tundra.
This week a tor­na­do so wide
you think it an ordi­nary storm
will kiss your rooftop
while the night crawlers
worm the soil, the termites
you paid good mon­ey to poison
hol­low your house.
The ani­mal and hunter exhaust
one anoth­er: cat and vole,
killer whale and gray whale.
Can­ni­bal hunger. How much
can you con­sume and expect
to be whole? You wield
a thick black line,
frag­ment the territory,
whit­tle the stream banks,
the marsh, the tadpoles
that sur­vive in the ditch
before the sum­mer drought.
Thou­sands of miles away,
the glac­i­ers weep back. 



From the writer


:: Account ::

I am always think­ing about the end of the world—the end of me, the end of every­one, whether human, plant, or min­er­al. These poems are an inter­ro­ga­tion of the con­se­quences of glob­al warm­ing. The apoc­a­lypse feels a breath away, from the rise of nat­ur­al cat­a­stro­phes to mass extinc­tion to the effects of a pol­lut­ed envi­ron­ment on the long-term health of every liv­ing crea­ture on this plan­et. While these poems may cel­e­brate that life, they are always cau­tious of the inher­ent dan­ger try­ing to main­tain sta­sis, or even move for­ward for the sake of progress while dimin­ish­ing the future. How long does all of this beau­ty, all of this destruc­tion, have left? While I am cau­tious of opti­mism, I am invest­ed in skep­ti­cism, in action, in tak­ing stock of the world. This work takes the same per­spec­tive: root­ed on the earth, fierce­ly look­ing to the horizon. 


Alyse Bensel is the author of Rare Won­drous Things, a poet­ic biog­ra­phy of Maria Sibyl­la Mer­ian (Green Writ­ers Press, forth­com­ing 2020), and three chap­books, includ­ing Lies to Tell the Body (Sev­en Kitchens Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared in Alas­ka Quar­ter­ly Review, Gulf Coast, Poet­ry Inter­na­tion­al, and West Branch. She is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at Bre­vard Col­lege, where she directs the Look­ing Glass Rock Writ­ers’ Conference.